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Audio Interview with Zaid Farooqui, iJigg
Over the past weekend I had a chance to speak with Zaid Farooqui, 19, who is the founder of a new service called, “iJigg”. It’s similar to, Digg, but for music. So, the idea is that you either upload music or point to the music, and then people can jig music that they like, which pushes it to the popular music page, and you can learn more about it. You can comment on it, etc. Zaid also shares some updates that are coming out this week, which will increase the usability of the application even further. Zaid has just announced a new Netvibes module for iJigg.
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Click the start button below to begin the audio interview (17 minutes) (or download the mp3):
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Allen: So Zaid, why don’t we get started by maybe you could provide a brief bio about yourself?
Zaid: Yes, I am 19 and I started my first company when I was a freshman in high school, and was basically a programming design outsourcing firm. I used labor in India to get a lot of good design done. Mainly branding, and good logo designs. Since then I’ve been involved in a few other frivolous adventures that have lunged and folded not soon after.
Allen: Interesting, so how do you find the business life treats you only being 19?
Zaid: You know, at this point I am 19, but I have been doing business for five years now, so it doesn’t really feel any different than if I was not 19 and older.
Allen: Certainly a lot different then when I was 14. I remember working at a grocery store collecting wagons out in the parking lot, and now you know, people like you are creating Internet companies when you’re 14, but maybe – that’s awesome, it shows how technology has changed the world.
Allen: all right, so where did the idea for, iJigg come from and can you explain a little bit about how the service works?
Zaid: Sure! So, we all know how good YouTube is, and we see hundreds of videos on it every week. But, I was looking for something similar for music, and had a great difficulty finding it. There are tons of websites with a lot of great music on them, but they’re just so difficult to use. So, once I decided that we want something like YouTube for music, I thought about “Hey, why not make it like Digg so we get the best of the music,” because there’s so much music out there.
So, the idea for iJigg came from sort of meshing YouTube and the Digg model.
Allen: So, more and more reviews that I read about your program, everybody seems to have some good feedback. I think one of the things I read a lot about is, “unauthorized music.” So how do you protect against that? If somebody was to put up a song like, “Mariah Carey,” or “Britney Spears,” or “U2?”
Zaid: Right, obviously we don’t want third party copyrighted stuff on our website. But, we face the same problem that tons of websites in this space face. But, we are putting in some features to allow handling of copyrighted material, and I think that should take care of a good part of the problem. Other than that, we have a DMCA procedure that we follow. So, I think combine those measures and we should be seeing less and less of that on iJigg.
Allen: Gotcha, so that’s good. You guys are taking a proactive approach I think, where as some of the other sites seem to be more reactive.
Zaid: Right, some of the other sites actually live off of that. I mean, for the longest time I think YouTube fed themselves from copyrighted stuff. But, hey they did it and it worked.
Allen: If I like one of the songs, how do I actually download it? Like for example, I’m home page right now, the one with the most jigs is, “Say What You Will,” by Chance, how do I get that song?
Zaid: You want to download that, right? And right now you cannot. So, you know obviously we have a lot of copyright concerns, and we decided that at least to begin with, we are not going to allow downloads with music. In the future what we are planning to do is once we can authenticate certain users as real artists, then we can get their accounts privileged to be able to serve downloads with their songs. So, I think you can look forward to that feature like that in the coming weeks and months.
Allen: Yeah, and I can see you potentially partnering with another service like – Amie Street or Indistr and have them take care of the payment, and you guys just, you know you partner with them like it’s networking.
Zaid: Right, exactly.
Allen: So, I know you guys just launched, you know this week, but I’m wondering if you have any feedback on who’s actually using it so far.
Zaid: We have a little over 4,000 members from all the coverage that it’s gotten in the past week. But, what matters the most to me is that even in the past day or two, a lot of coverage has cooled down, and we are still getting a few hundred sign-ups a day. And I think the current website is not optimized for member involvement, and they’re doing a big update on Tuesday that should really fuel a lot more member participation.
Allen: OK, so can you share some information about the team? Is it just you, or are you working with somebody else, and so forth?
Zaid: Yeah, I have two more partners and their names are, Monjurul Dolon, and, Rodolfo Sikora. One of them goes to school with me here in Chapel Hill, and the other is stationed Brazil. Rodolfo is stationed in Brazil, and he is the coordinator behind iJigg, and I’m sort of the designer, and do research and development, and the planning.
Allen: Are you monetizing the tool, what’s your plan for that, if there is one?
Zaid: You know we haven’t thought much about monetizing things. Right now our only focus is to get more and more users. We have kept expenses really low, and by doing stuff that we aren’t necessarily best at, but you know we find a way to do it. So, our only goal right now is to build a user base, and I think money will follow later on.
Allen: Yeah, that seems to be an approach that has worked, at least in the other interviews that I’ve done. So, it sounds like that’s a good approach to follow. How would you compare yourself to Amie Street, or Indistr?
Zaid: So, here’s the deal, you know? We’ve been compared a lot with these kinds of websites, and I think, if anything, we compliment these sort of websites, because we are not in the business of selling music. That is very far, and I don’t see iJigg entering that space at least anytime soon. If anything we can compliment these industries by bringing the best of the indie stuff highlighting it on our popular music page, and if people really want to buy it they can perhaps go to Amie Street and download that track for whatever cents it costs on it.
Allen: Are there competitors out there for your program, or do you consider yourself to be first?
Zaid: There are, but it’s hard for me to even call them competitors, because with iJigg we have a specific philosophy that we are following, it’s not just about putting in a thing for audio and stealing Digg’s way of rating stuff. We have a very defined philosophy that we are following, that we want to highlight the music before anything else. And there are a lot of other websites, but as soon as you go to them what you see are a bunch of graphics, and album covers, and faces of artists. Our focus is on music, and that is why we are really reluctant to put a lot of graphics and stuff because I feel that it distracts people who come for music to the website.
Allen: Well, especially if you’re not the one that’s actually selling music like you talked about. Instead you’re the one that’s helping people get to the music.
Zaid: Right. We are all about identifying the best of music, and I think a lot of other sites are missing the point when, as soon as you go to their home page, you see ten album covers. As soon as you see that they start stereotyping what might be good and bad, rather than just hitting the play button and listening to the music for a few seconds.
Allen: all right, so now you’re live. And what’s next?
Zaid: Like I said, on Tuesday we have a major update coming up, and that’s going to address a lot of feedback that we have received from users, and in general it’s just going to make it much easier to read comments and share stuff with your friends. So a lot of community involvement features.
Allen: Yeah, I think it will be exciting, and I’m certainly going to be watching and seeing how things grow for you guys.
Zaid: Right, and I can actually tell you a couple of things that we’re going to have. For example, right now, if you’re listening to a song on the popular music page and you want to post a comment on it, you actually have to click on the song to go to that page, but on Tuesday, with the update, you can post a comment right on the popular music page about that song.
Allen: That makes sense, because you wouldn’t want to stop the music from playing, right?
Zaid: Right. So, we are just taking care of those little things that are currently breaking the flow from the listener.
Allen: Awesome. Like I said, it definitely seems like an interesting concept, the concept has appeared to work, and maybe it can work for music as well. I enjoy actually just listening to music, and deciding whether or not I like it.
Zaid: Right. And we just made a blog post about it, because we received a lot of artists telling us, “How come you don’t feature our band name more prominently?” And my thing is, we want people to hit the play button before they read your band name and get distracted. If you have great music they will play the song, like it, and then they will themselves try to find out your band name and more information about you. So that’s kind of our stand, and our philosophy behind it, and I think it’s pretty unique because I don’t see anyone with this kind of philosophy in this case.
Allen: all right, a couple other questions that are not really related to iJigg, but just business-oriented questions to help people as they’re working on their own startup. So, what do you think, since you’ve been doing this for five years, what do you think are some of the most important things that a startup needs to be successful?
Zaid: I think, from an entrepreneur’s point-of-view: persistence. Given today’s market environment, failure is like part of success. It’s really hard to succeed without failing today. For example, in past ventures, I learned that the best ideas can collapse if you don’t have users using it on the day of the launch. So, I was paranoid before launching iJigg that we had a lot of great songs in the system and users who would use it the minute we launched. So we didn’t have to rely on whether we caused a fire in the blogosphere. We didn’t rely on that. It happened, and it’s a great thing, but our strategy wasn’t that we had to get full coverage to actually keep going. I think that’s one of the things that a lot of startups need to plan for.
Allen: Yeah, I think a lot of other companies I have reported on, they live and die by the blog, and who’s writing about them. And I think it makes sense what you said.
Zaid: Yeah, I was just saying, that if you don’t have users from the moment you launch, what I’m talking about is advanced sign-ups, then it’s very difficult to get people to actually sign up on a list that has no users to begin with. Especially if it’s a community website which relies on talking with other people on the website. So, it’s really critical that startups that are social networks have advanced sign-ups.
Allen: I think that’s great advice. All right, so, last question. Besides iJigg, because we know iJigg will be a huge success, what other tool would you say is destined for success that’s out there right now?
Zaid: You know, more than a particular web application, I actually want to applaud the culture that is being raised by the folks behind Ruby on Rails. I’ve been noticing that startups and applications made in Ruby on Rails framework are just inherently more user-friendly, for whatever reason. And I don’t think that programmers have just overnight become great designers, so Ruby on Rails is definitely doing something right. And making programmers make more user-friendly applications.
Allen: That’s an interesting perspective. I think you’re the first one to call out a programming language or a programming frameset as being a potential star, but I think it’s true. I think that more and more of the people I speak with say they’re using it, so that really makes sense. All right Zaid, that’s basically all the questions I had for you, is there anything else you want to add about iJigg?
Zaid: That it’s from this end and look forward to the bit on Tuesday, it’s going to be amazing. We’re going to send out an email to all of the members at the end of the update.
Allen: Yeah, I’m definitely looking forward to it, too, and I’ll write something up on CenterNetworks. So, Zaid, I appreciate your time, I’m sure the CenterNetworks listeners have learned something about iJigg, and hopefully they’ll give it a try and check it out. Thanks so much for your time.